An iconic 1957 Chevrolet known as the Project X has been brought into the future with electrification. Its latest evolution is a collaboration between Chevrolet, MotorTrend, and Cagnazzi Racing, and will be presented this week at the 2021 SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
Originally Purchased for $250, the 1957 Chevrolet Project X has served as a test bed for MotorTrend’s Hot Rod brand for over five decades. It has been powered by everything from an inline-six to a V8 and has been used to evaluate new technologies and trends from carburetors to superchargers. “Project X has always served the car community by pushing the envelope with groundbreaking technologies,” said Douglas Glad, Group Content Director at MotorTrend Group. “As the auto industry shifts rapidly toward electric vehicles, this Project X build is just the latest in its celebrated legacy of adapting hot rodding to the powerful technology of tomorrow.”
The latest evolution of Project X was executed with the help of Cagnazzi Racing. In the place of the supercharged LSX V8 is an electric motor with 340 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. Its battery is a unit that’s being evaluated for use in future Chevrolet Performance products. The unit has been developed with modularity in mind so customers can scale the capacity based on range, cost, weight, and packaging considerations. This iteration is a 30-kWh lithium-ion unit, which Chevrolet says is enough for a weekend cruise, and has a 400-volt charging architecture. A quick-change differential allows the final drive ratio to be changed based on how the vehicle is being used. A shorter ratio allows for quick acceleration while a taller one extends the car’s range.
“The reinvention of Project X is a reminder that our vision for a world with zero emissions includes classics like the Tri-Five Chevys,” said Prashant Ahire, eCrate Regional Chief Engineer at General Motors. “As General Motors rolls out its trailblazing EV technology, Chevrolet Performance plans to offer EV propulsion solutions for enthusiasts looking to modernize their project cars.”
Cagnazzi Racing performed the motor swap at its shop in Mooresville, North Carolina. Turning Project X into a battery-electric vehicle also required switching to an electric brake booster and electrohydraulic power steering pump. The car retains the front suspension of a fifth-generation Corvette installed in 2007 but it has received significant updates. Thanks to the removal of the exhaust system, the Project X is also 2.0 inches lower. It also received softer front springs and stiffer rear ones since it carries more weight over the rear axle.
Despite all the mechanical changes, Project X retains its classic looks but there are hints of its electrified nature. Inside, the gear selector is now the same push-button type found in the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette, hinting at the new powertrain. “We are racers and hot rodders, with deep roots in internal-combustion racing engines,” said Vic Cagnazzi, owner of Cagnazzi Racing. “But we see this next leap into EV performance propulsion as a natural evolution for hot rodding. Our goal with this conversion was to maintain the look and integrity of the classic hot rod while modernizing the propulsion technology.”
This isn’t the first time Chevrolet swapped out a gas engine and dropped in an electric motor and battery. When it debuted its first eCrate electric motor last year, it put the Bolt EV’s 200-hp unit into a 1977 K5 Blazer-E backed by a 60-kWh battery pack.